'A monumental achievement - one of the great scientific biographies.' Michael Frayn The Strangest Man is the Costa Biography Award-winning account of Paul Dirac, the famous physicist sometimes called the British Einstein. He was one of the leading pioneers of the greatest revolution in twentieth-century science: quantum mechanics. The youngest theoretician ever to win the Nobel Prize for Physics, he was also pathologically reticent, strangely literal-minded and legendarily unable to communicate or empathize. Through his greatest period of productivity, his postcards home contained only remarks about the weather. Based on a previously undiscovered archive of family papers, Graham Farmelo celebrates Dirac's massive scientific achievement while drawing a compassionate portrait of his life and work. Farmelo shows a man who, while hopelessly socially inept, could manage to love and sustain close friendship. The Strangest Man is an extraordinary and moving human story, as well as a study of one of the most exciting times in scientific history. 'A wonderful book . . . Moving, sometimes comic, sometimes infinitely sad, and goes to the roots of what we mean by truth in science.' Lord Waldegrave, Daily Telegraph
Utterly beautiful. Profoundly disconcerting. Quantum theory is quite simply the most successful account of the physical universe ever devised. Its concepts underpin much of the twenty-first century technology that we now take for granted. But at the same time it has completely undermined our ability to make sense of the world at its most fundamental level. Niels Bohr claimed that anybody who is not shocked by the theory has not understood it. The American physicist Richard Feynman went further: he claimed that nobody understands it. The Quantum Story begins in 1900, tracing a century of game-changing science. Popular science writer Jim Baggott first shows how, over the space of three decades, Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, and others formulated and refined the theory--and opened the floodgates. Indeed, since then, a torrent of ideas has flowed from the world's leading physicists, as they explore and apply the theory's bizarre implications. To take us from the story's beginning to the present day, Baggott organizes his narrative around forty turning-point moments of discovery. Many of these are inextricably bound up with the characters involved--their rivalries and their collaborations, their arguments and, not least, their excitement as they sense that they are redefining what reality means. Through the mix of story and science, we experience their breathtaking leaps of theory and experiment, as they uncover such undreamed of and mind-boggling phenomenon as black holes, multiple universes, quantum entanglement, the Higgs boson, and much more. Brisk, clear, and compelling, The Quantum Story is science writing at its best. A compelling look at the one-hundred-year history of quantum theory, it illuminates the idea as it reveals how generations of physicists have grappled with this monster ever since.
Jewish Fugitives, the Atomic Bomb, and the Holocaust
Author: Gordon Fraser
Publisher: OUP Oxford
It was no accident that the Holocaust and the Atomic Bomb happened at the same time. When the Nazis came into power in 1933, their initial objective was not to get rid of Jews. Rather, their aim was to refine German culture: Jewish professors and teachers at fine universities were sacked. Atomic science had attracted a lot of Jewish talent, and as Albert Einstein and other quantum exiles scattered, they realized that they held the key to a weapon of unimaginable power. Convinced that their gentile counterparts in Germany had come to the same conclusion, and having witnessed what the Nazis were prepared to do, the exiles were afraid. They had to get to the Atomic Bomb first. The Nazis meanwhile had acquired a more pressing objective: their persecution of the Jews had evolved into extermination. Two dreadful projects - the Bomb and the Holocaust - became locked a grisly race.
How did our modern picture of the universe come into being? Masters of the Universe tells this fascinating story in an unusual format that blends factual and fictional elements. It is based on a series of interviews that a fictional person conducted with leading astronomers and physicists between 1913 and 1965. Among the interviewed scientists are giants such as Albert Einstein, Edwin Hubble, and George Gamow, but also scientists who are less well known today or not primarily known as cosmologists such as Karl Schwarzschild, Paul Dirac, and Svante Arrhenius. By following the interviews the reader gets a lively and "almost authentic" impression of the problems that faced this early generation of cosmologists. Although the interviews are purely fictional, a product of the author's imagination, they could have taken place in just the way that is described. They are solidly based on historical facts and, moreover, supplemented with careful annotations and references to the literature. In this way the book bridges the gap between scholarly and popular history of science.
An Alternative Approach to the Understanding of Quantum Mechanics
Author: Malcolm Longair
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Written for advanced undergraduates, physicists, and historians and philosophers of physics, this book tells the story of the development of our understanding of quantum phenomena through the extraordinary years of the first three decades of the twentieth century. Rather than following the standard axiomatic approach, this book adopts a historical perspective, explaining clearly and authoritatively how pioneers such as Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Pauli and Dirac developed the fundamentals of quantum mechanics and merged them into a coherent theory, and why the mathematical infrastructure of quantum mechanics has to be as complex as it is. The author creates a compelling narrative, providing a remarkable example of how physics and mathematics work in practice. The book encourages an enhanced appreciation of the interaction between mathematics, theory and experiment, helping the reader gain a deeper understanding of the development and content of quantum mechanics than any other text at this level.